Thoughts on Bad News

Bad news is part of climate change. I mean, climate change is bad news all around, but climate change headlines can still disappoint with bad news on top of the terrible changes to our climate. From news of deadly extreme weather, to Supreme Court rulings that make climate change harder for the U.S. government to curb, or Joe Manchin (U.S. Senator and professional asshat) declining to pass legislation that could drastically reduce America’s emissions over the next ten years. And that’s just from the past couple of weeks. There is no shortage of bad news when it comes to climate change, and sometimes, the bad news can seem like a ceaseless onslaught that makes you want to put your phone in a wooden box and lock it away so you’re never tempted to read the news ever again.

But the simple fact is that bad news is simply part of the deal. It has been for decades. Climate change, like any other struggle, has victories and setbacks. The defeats make for excellent headlines, as they tend to be large, grim, and to make future struggles all the harder. But they are rarely insurmountable. While the Supreme Court ruling was a major setback, and while Joe Manchin is just an insufferable jackass who is too busy making millions on coal to do anything more than string people along on climate change legislation, the struggle against climate change is far larger and deeper than a few awful decisions by a handful of powerful (old) people. While the news from the United States or Germany might have long and bad stretches, climate change is a global crusade and is finally getting global effort and attention.

Good news, even if only minor stories, is happening all the while. There are entire websites dedicated to gathering encouraging climate stories and incremental progress. While these stories are not nearly enough to offset the major setbacks, it is important to keep in mind that climate change is larger than any one country or handful of powerful people, and that several trends are heading the right way. It’s also worth keeping in mind that there is a global effort, not a very well-coordinated one, but a global effort all the same, trying to crack everything from fusion energy, to carbon capture, to growing algae on a commercial scale to create carbon-negative dog food. Not all of these efforts are going well, but by golly, people are trying,

However, these tidbits are not here to make light of bad news or to suggest it can just be ignored. If terrible news comes from your own country, region, or government, it is perfectly appropriate to (politely) raise hell. And rest assured that even if you’re not comfortable raising hell about terrible climate news and decisions, people on Twitter almost certainly are and political offices are probably getting inundated with furious emails and phone calls. Maybe not enough to reverse the terrible decisions being made, but horrible news stories never occur in a vacuum. They can spur action every bit as much as a victory, although the actions may feel far more desperate and bitter.

However bad a week the climate movement has had, I take some comfort in the growing pace, recognized urgency, and optimism that is growing in discussions of climate change. Thinktanks that previously were rather pessimistic are now starting to discuss how climate change will eventually be solved. The bad news that is sweeping the headlines has the potential to create the sort of urgency that is needed to make change. So don’t disengage, as tempting as that is, because more news is coming.

Hopefully, better news.

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